Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why Being a Kid in Barcelona at Christmas is So Cool.

Christmas is all about the kids, right? You know the feeling as a youngster, the wait up until Christmas Eve with unbelievable excitement. you've wittled your Christmas list down to maybe 45 serious contenders for the big present, but that changes each time the adverts come on TV, and you've marked out in the TV and Radio Times those un-missable Christmas specials and network premieres of the movies you'll want to watch again. The house is decked with Boughs of Holly, Christmas cards, and the smell of pine from the Christmas tree, begging to be moved away from the radiator. And Christmas night finally arrives, with the I don't want to go to sleep/I need to go to sleep dilemma.

OK, well maybe back in the UK. Here in Catalunya, they do things differently. The Christmas celebrations last for ages!
Barcelona Sights - Reis Magos
First of all, the 25th of December is no big deal. sure, it's a public holiday and if you happen to wander down Las Ramblas at lunchtime on Christmas Day, then you'll probably be the only people there. I'm not sayng it's completely overlooked, but it's not the big day. Kids stuff themselves with sweets on Christmas Eve with the delights that the Cagatio has (how should I put this) "deposited" them, so are hardly ready for a full turkey with all the trimmings. no, no, the week of festivities continues as the children look forward to the "cabalgata dels Reis Magos" - the arrival and procession of the 3 "Magic" Kings.

The traditional Bible story of the birth of Christ tells of the Epiphany or the arrival of the 3 wise men, who folowed the star and brought the baby Jesus gifts of Gold, Frankinsence and Myrrh. So it's very fitting that Catalan children wait until the arrival of the kings to receive their Christmas gifts - even if they do have a lot less time to play wit the new toys as school starts usually the day after.

In Barcelona it's also a public holiday, and children and adults alike crowd the cordened-off streets with paper crowns and flags, waiting for the arrival of the kings (who make a spectacular entrance on speedboat, of course, not camels) who then follow a route all the way around the city, throwing tonnes of sweets to the children hanging from balconies or following the parade. It's a televised event and really a thoroughly good laugh.
Barcelona Sights - King's Parade detail of route

Late on, everyone trudges home, happy and content, and the children usually crash out in bed after leaving their shoes out for the kings with a gift, and something for the camels. Presents are left for the good children and a piece of coal for the not-so-good. the following day is a holiday with toys galore, leaving Mum and Dad to try and squash and cram all the empty boxes and wrapping paper into the recycling bins downstairs, and wonder why they didn't get enough batteries from the Chinese shop this year.

If you're lucking enough to be in Barcelona for "Kings Day" on the 6th January, try and rent a Barcelona Apartment with a balcony to witness the parade (on the night of the 5th) yourself from the comfort of your own home away from home. I assure you, you've never seen anything like it!


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